Shawn L. Bird

Original poetry, commentary, and fiction. All copyrights reserved.

hi story October 5, 2011

I’ve been reading Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series the last week or two. I got the first book from the BC e-book library service, loved it, put in requests for the next two, had to wait a couple weeks, got them, read 1800 pages in 4 days, and now I’m waiting for the next two books to come available. As I wait, I have to catch up on the basement clear out, because the moment they are on the e-reader, I will be travelling to other worlds for a few days.

My own family tree is firmly rooted in the South and West of England, and on Continental Europe (France and Prussia). There are no Scots in my lineage, but there are in my husband’s side. In fact, his  father is the clan genealogist for the Clan Rattray. Their traditional lands are 20 miles north of Perth and Dundee (make an equilateral triangle, and you’ll find the family seat near Blairgowrie at Craighall Rattray). Some clan maps show them as a Highland clan and others as a Lowland clan, since it’s right on the border.

I wondered whether any of the ancestors had been at Culloden, and did some research.  I discovered that the son of his great great great great great great granduncle James was  John Rattray, a surgeon from Edinborough, was in fact at Culloden.  Moreover, he was serving there as the personal physician of Bonnie Prince Charlie.  Kind of makes the heart flutter.

Did I mention my husband is also called John?

Believe it or not, Dr. Rattray was a golfer.  He won the world’s first golf tournament, was head of the world’s first golf club (it later became St. Andrew’s) and is a signatory to the creation of the official rules back in 1744. (see here)  In a historical story that is almost comical (but certainly something that could have been in a Diana Gabaldon novel!) after being taken at Culloden, he was reprieved from the gallows by the intervention of a golf buddy- Lord President Duncan Forbes, Lord Culloden, himself.

The Rattrays are a sept of the neighboring Murray Clan (or allied with, but not actually a sept, according to some sources).   On the other side of the bordering  Murray land, are the Frasers.  Around the time of Culloden, the Rattrays had just won back Atholl Castle from the Stewarts, so I suspect they weren’t on the best of terms.  One wonders about the political initiatives that led to their involvement in the Jacobite uprising.

Knowing something of your family history brings the past alive.  Knowing our people were there, doing this, brings an immediacy to events.  It also makes a historical fiction seem even more possible.

Oh. There’s  a stone circle at Craighall-Rattray, too.

Got goosebumps yet?

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